I grew up in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado, the second son of a Denver police officer. Church attendance was very sporadic in our home. My father and mother came from different Christian traditions and they compromised by not going to any church. I cannot remember seeing my father in a church building for anything other than a wedding or a funeral. My mother took my brother and me to a Sunday School and then to church for a number of years. By the time I reached my early teens, we had stopped going to church at all. My parents behaved as if the Christian moral teachings were true, but they rarely talked about God.
As long as I can remember, I have had interests and abilities in science. As a result of this, I took advanced placement math, chemistry, and physics while in high school. I found school relatively easy, and got good grades. [I graduated in the top 15 in a class of over 700.] Even some of my hobbies had a scientific flavor to them. One of my favorite clubs was chess club. We had meetings every Friday afternoon after school was over. [This might also say something about my group's lack of dating very much as well.]
Not all of my interests were in the sciences. I was a spectator sports "nut", following baseball and football with great enthusiasm. I was a fanatical supporter of the Denver Broncos. [This was in the era when they had never yet had a winning season.] I enjoyed political activities and was president of our school's Young Democrats club my senior year. I spent many hours during the summer and fall of 1968 trying to make Hubert Humphrey President of the United States.
All in all, I thought that I had a good life. It didn't seem as if I needed God. I thought that science had shown us that God was not needed to understand what is going on in the world. With this kind of attitude, I went away to college in the fall of 1969. At college, I found that I could still get good grades. I also continued my political involvement.
Yet for some reason I was not happy. I was able to fulfill my goals, but they no longer satisfied me. I then met some other students who were different. They enjoyed life and had a purpose for life that I desperately wanted, but did not have. When asked, they told me that their real joy and purpose in life came from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I found this statement to be unbelievable, for I was confident that science had shown us we did not need God.
However, their happiness, contrasted with my growing unhappiness, continued to bother me. I could not reject their faith as the choice of uneducated people, for many of them were getting the same high grades I was. Even more amazing, their leader was an engineering faculty member. That obviously intelligent people would believe this story forced me to re-evaluate my position. I thought the thing I should do would be to read the gospels for myself. I went home the next weekend, and secretly brought back to campus my old Bible that had been given to me by my grandmother when I was in grade school. I did this reading secretly, for I did not want any of my friends to know that I was actually reading the Bible.
The more I read, the more Jesus impressed me. I even went to one evangelistic meeting sponsored by Campus Crusade to hear more. I became convinced that Jesus was truly a remarkable person. I still had problems with what I called the "God stuff" that referred to Jesus as more than just a man. I thought Jesus was a remarkable person, but still just a man. I thought the "God stuff" had been added later by his followers to make him look even better than he was.
With this attitude, I got invited to go to a state wide retreat for Campus Crusade for Christ that was to be held on the University of Colorado campus. The speaker the opening night spoke about the existence of God as shown by the lives of the early disciples. He pointed out that the early disciples had every human reason to deny that Jesus was God, yet they did just the opposite and insisted he was (and is) God. This cost many of them their lives.
During and after that meeting, I thought and thought about this point. Why would the disciples make up stuff that said Jesus was God, knowing that this would result in their own punishment? I could only conclude that the reason they said these things was because what they said was true. They believed Jesus really was GOD, and they had to say that even if it resulted in future punishment. That Friday night, October 8, 1971, I lay in a sleeping bag in a church fellowship hall in Boulder, Colorado, and tried to think this through. I finally had to conclude that the disciples were telling the truth. Jesus is GOD. This truth that had changed their life, could also change mine. So, as I lay there in the sleeping bag in the darkened room, I asked Jesus to become my Savior, to forgive my sins, and come into my life. This produced an inward happiness that I had never had before. I finally learned what love was all about. It's like the apostle John wrote so long ago (I John 4:18-19): "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us."
The next morning, we were to break up into teams and go sharing our faith in the Colorado dormitories. I innocently asked: "What is witnessing?" One of the staff members then decided to become my partner for the morning. Since my question indicated that I knew very little about this, he first made sure that I had already made a personal decision for Christ. I then went with him, and watched him as he shared his faith in the dormitory. All in all, it was quite a weekend for this junior college student.
Why I am a Christian Engineering Professor
I am a Christian engineer because I am a Christian who has chosen engineering for my life work. However, I hope I am more than just an engineer who also happens to be a Christian. Being a Christian is not something that I add on to my life as an engineer. Being a Christian is something that permeates all that I do as an engineer.
There are many engineers who are Christians. Their Christian faith impels them to work hard and be good, dedicated engineers. Their employer knows that these engineers are working hard on their projects, and will fulfill all of their job commitments. I hope this is true of me. However, I do not think that just being a good engineer is enough. I think that my faith should affect how I do engineering.
My Christian faith helps me decide what sort of projects I will work on and what sort of projects I will not work on. I believe that there are some things that are inherently evil that Christians should not work on. I believe that there are other very important things that Christian engineers should be working on. I also believe that there are many engineering projects that are in the middle, capable of being used for good or evil, depending upon the character of the engineer who is doing the project.
While I love my work, my Christian faith is more important than engineering to understand who I really am. Several years ago when I was lecturing in the Former Soviet Union, I was asked what is more important, my Christian faith or my engineering work. I replied by stating that I am an engineer while at work, but I am a Christian twenty four hours a day.
After my time at the university, I worked for five years as a metallurgical engineer for a medium sized steel company. I found my work to be interesting. What I was doing challenged me. I was involved with several things that I thought were productive. I helped to develop new alloys of steel (at least new as far as our company was concerned). I was involved with customer contact, and helped resolve problems when our steel did not meet the customer's needs. All in all, I had a job where I did useful and interesting things. You might expect that I would then be a very satisfied person. However, that was not the case.
What I was doing was beneficial to my company and helpful to our customers. I was not doing anything evil or hurtful. However, I became increasingly frustrated at my job. The reason is that what I was doing had no eternal value. I was helping to make good steel. Our modern society needs this product, and my job was certainly a legitimate one. However, it seemed to me that there had to be more to my life than just making good steel. As I looked around at my world, I found that what I most enjoyed was working with other people. I was actively involved with a singles Bible study group that was personally very important to me. I found that this (and my church activities) gave me more happiness than did my work. Over a period of a couple of years, I began to re-evaluate my life and purpose.
I seriously considered going into full time ministry. My seminary degree would have allowed me to do that. However, I was reluctant to leave the technical world, for I know my main talents still lay in engineering. This left me with several choices. I could leave engineering and go into full time ministry. This option did not appeal to me as the best use of my talents. I could continue as I have, using my engineering talents to earn an income while doing ministry things on the side. I seriously considered this, but this still left me with spending a large portion of my time (40+ hours per week) doing something that was not my prime interest. This left a third possibility, to seek another job where I could use my engineering skills in a manner that had a more eternal purpose.
I had been given an obvious example of how I could successfully mix my engineering and spiritual interests, so as to increase my impact for Christ. Outside of my family the most influential person in my life has been a Christian engineering professor I had while I was an undergraduate student. This man was a model of someone who used his engineering skills in a way that enabled him to have an impact for God on many people. I finally decided that I could do what I really wanted to do by becoming a university professor. In this profession, my main product is people (not things). This way I could use my engineering skills in a manner that had more than just a technical goal. Since I did not have a Ph.D. at the time, this forced me to go back to graduate school for three years, before I could go work for a university.
I have served for twenty years as engineering professor in a public university. I believe that God has called me to this life, just as much as he calls anyone else to a full-time ministry position. Anyone who thinks life on the public university campus for a Christian is an easy one, has not been on very many public college campuses recently. I now have the privilege of serving as a professor at a Christian University. This type of position has many challenges, but also many rewards. I cannot think of anything I would rather do or be than what I am already: a Christian engineering professor. I know this is where God wants me to serve him.